Willow Wonderland #5 Review

Willow Wonderland #5 Review

Read a review of Willow Wonderland #4 here .

The true villain is revealed and as is so often the case, the clues to their identity were there all along if you looked closely enough. Thankfully, it wasn’t so obvious that the twist was spoiled too soon in the story (at least for me) and the big fight scene in this issue was a great climax to Willow’s adventures. Epic is a word oft overused but it suits the locations this battle ends up taking Willow and the Big Bad; across dimensions into an unfathomable locale. All throughout the fight, this villain is taunting Willow, trying to call out and bring forth her dark side. Preying on her weakness, he hopes to distract her enough to let it surface because as scary as it is, it would also be easier to beat in many ways. Willow’s true strength is as a good witch; turning to black magic makes her sloppy. Her dark side falls prey to expending a lot of energy through large displays of power without considering the next hit. Crazy scary and intimidating but also sloppy enough that a good run around should wear her down for the final blow. Assuming anyone survives that long.

She doesn’t submit though and she’s learned that this side of her is something that not only can she control, but it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s all part of the Willow Rosenberg we’ve known and loved for years, she’s just finally realizing how strong she is, before any magic even comes into play. I like that magic in the Buffyverse is influenced by the type of person you are, not necessarily something that automatically corrupts those who test its boundaries. Sure, some will submit to dark impulses more than others but even dark magic isn’t necessarily inherently evil. It’s simply the easy way and that costs more—spiritually, emotionally and physically—than hard work.

The story concludes on a relatively high note, with Willow’s quest finally at an end. She’s found the answers to her questions but they are definitely not what she thought they would be. The solution is grounded in realism, not a mystic cure all for their universe’s lack of magic. It’s refreshing actually, since it’s so easy to depend on magic to swoop in and fix whatever may have gone wrong. The problem will need to be solved with a lot of hard work and Willow essentially volunteering on a regular basis to make sure it does.

Overall this was a great solo arc for a beloved Whedon character, adding and continuing the main Buffy story without feeling forced or unnecessary. If you haven’t already been following along with this series, definitely pick it up as a trade paperback later this year. Read a review of Willow Wonderland #4 here.

The true villain is revealed and as is so often the case, the clues to their identity were there all along if you looked closely enough. Thankfully, it wasn’t so obvious that the twist was spoiled too soon in the story (at least for me) and the big fight scene in this issue was a great climax to Willow’s adventures. Epic is a word oft overused but it suits the locations this battle ends up taking Willow and the Big Bad; across dimensions into an unfathomable locale. All throughout the fight, this villain is taunting Willow, trying to call out and bring forth her dark side. Preying on her weakness, he hopes to distract her enough to let it surface because as scary as it is, it would also be easier to beat in many ways. Willow’s true strength is as a good witch; turning to black magic makes her sloppy. Her dark side falls prey to expending a lot of energy through large displays of power without considering the next hit. Crazy scary and intimidating but also sloppy enough that a good run around should wear her down for the final blow. Assuming anyone survives that long.

She doesn’t submit though and she’s learned that this side of her is something that not only can she control, but it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s all part of the Willow Rosenberg we’ve known and loved for years, she’s just finally realizing how strong she is, before any magic even comes into play. I like that magic in the Buffyverse is influenced by the type of person you are, not necessarily something that automatically corrupts those who test its boundaries. Sure, some will submit to dark impulses more than others but even dark magic isn’t necessarily inherently evil. It’s simply the easy way and that costs more—spiritually, emotionally and physically—than hard work.

The story concludes on a relatively high note, with Willow’s quest finally at an end. She’s found the answers to her questions but they are definitely not what she thought they would be. The solution is grounded in realism, not a mystic cure all for their universe’s lack of magic. It’s refreshing actually, since it’s so easy to depend on magic to swoop in and fix whatever may have gone wrong. The problem will need to be solved with a lot of hard work and Willow essentially volunteering on a regular basis to make sure it does.

Overall this was a great solo arc for a beloved Whedon character, adding and continuing the main Buffy story without feeling forced or unnecessary. If you haven’t already been following along with this series, definitely pick it up as a trade paperback later this year.

Willow Wonderland #4

Willow Wonderland #4

Read a review of Willow Wonderland #1-3 here.

Willow has come to her senses, realizing that she’s spent the past few days just drinking and having sex with Aluwyn. Not a bad way to spend time but not the reason she set off on her quest. She realizes that she can’t continue this way and has to move on to find a way of bringing back magic to the Scooby gang. As much as Aluwyn loves her, she has not been as truthful as she should be, hiding things from Willow that would dissuade her from staying. Who hasn’t been so terrified of losing their lover that they’ve at least contemplated hiding something that could cause them to leave? Readers can empathize with Aluwyn on that point but as her selfishness could affect the well-being of the entire planet, I think it’s fair to get a little angry at her. Willow’s discussion with her is surprisingly level-headed and they resolve the issue with minimal drama. It’s a very mature conversation that could have gone badly between two other people but they both come to terms with what must happen. They separate with sadness but with love in their hearts; a sign of caring enough about each other’s happiness to put aside their own selfish desires to keep each other close. Not an easy decision but Aluwyn lets Willow go because it’s the right thing to do. I love when characters in comics have this much depth and maturity, especially in a series that originally targeted teenagers as its main demographic. Better examples of what love can be like beyond the stereotypes is always a good thing.

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willow4b_tall.jpgIt’s not just an emotional issue though, as Willow returns to Marrak and they continue together on their quest to find magic. They jump to another dimension that Willow senses has an abundance of magic everywhere: in the sand, the rocks, the earth itself. She realizes that Marrak is toying more and more with dark magic that he will not be able to control but that she can deal with it when things inevitably go bad. While he stalks off to find more tangible magic, she pauses to meditate in this mystical landscape and ends up finding more answers than she expected. One being how she looks at her darker side and the other, who Marrak was before he came to this place. It’s quite a shock for BtVS fans who’ll recognize his true name.

This is a very introspective issue— which I can see not appealing to everyone— but it still reads very authentically as Willow and that makes it enjoyable overall. Gage and Parker nail Rosenberg’s tone and Brian Ching continues to deliver on art. A great continuation of this series and though the end game isn’t in sight quite yet, it’s an interesting enough journey to keep me following along until we get there.

Willow Wonderland #3 Review

Willow Wonderland #3 Review

Read a review of Willow Wonderland #2 here.

Read a review of Willow Wonderland #1 here.

Even though the last issue ended on a disappointing note, the majority of Willow Wonderland #3 is a pretty carefree exploration of this world’s magical regions and creatures. Once Marrak is mystically booted across the planet for taking a demanding tone with Willow, the rest of her time is spent with her new coven trying to find an answer to her dilemma. She doesn’t even attempt to return Marrak or seem at all concerned with his fate, which is very unlike the perpetually nice Willow Rosenberg. Though he was a bit of a brute, he did help her get where she is but once he’s out of sight, he’s out of mind.

The crux of Willow’s problems is that she’s not able to bring magic back to Earth in the way she planned, and may not even be able to get herself back home either. There are a multitude of mystical objects she interacts with to try and get answers or ideas but they all ultimately lead nowhere. By the time she and Aluwyn find themselves being attacked by a horde of adorable octopi that have melded together into a massive Cthulhu-esque beast, Willow has mentally resigned herself to finding happiness where she is instead of returning home. She makes some valid points for staying where she is; she’s found somewhere she belongs with someone she adores, in a world where magic still exists and she can manipulate it without it being a step towards bringing back Dark Willow. She may never be able to return home but the Scooby gang will survive without her, and what does she really add to the group without magic, other than being a hacker and occasional hostage?

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It all makes sense but it isn’t in Willow’s nature to give up. She’s survived and fought more than a few apocalypses so to be this easily defeated doesn’t ring true. Thankfully, there’s a reason for that and it’s all part of the story, which I thought was a really great way to tie everything together.

The more I read this series, the more of a fan I become of the art and writing. Brian Ching, Jason Gorder and Michelle Madsen make a great team, their combined work making this a visually impactful book. Jeff Parker teams with Christos Gage in this issue (who’s writing the Angel & Faith series) and the writing remains consistent. I’m so happy to be able to recommend a Buffy based spin-off, which I can absolutely do with Willow Wonderland.

Willow Wonderland #2 Review

Willow Wonderland #2 Review

Willow Wonderland #1 review here.

First impression of this book is great thanks to David Mack’s soft pastel cover. Though it doesn’t match the tone of the interior art, it’s a lovely literal and symbolic portrayal of Willow. Lara Megan’s alternate cover is gorgeous as well, and showcases what’s become her signature art nouveau meets stained glass style portraits of strong women in various fandoms.

Brian Ching’s interior art inked by Jason Gorder and coloured by Michelle Madsen is very vibrant and brings the beastie chasing after Willow and Marrak to life. Unfortunately, it also makes that beastie’s messy defeat a little too vivid. Willow’s quick spell-work to dispatch said beastie is thankfully followed by a spell to tidy things up. Very efficient casting overall, without any pesky evil Willow popping up. Their newfound caterpillar friend is more than a little amusing during this sequence too, breaking up the aftermath with sarcastic deadpan quips followed by a bit of ominous advice. He looks and acts like Disney’s Alice in Wonderland character, which I found to be a surprising yet fitting twist. I didn’t think they literally meant Wonderland at any point but a little bit managed to sneak in.

afdadfg.jpgThings seem like they are only going to get more interesting for Willow and Marrak. They continue their journey and encounter what seem to be some pretty creepy winged creatures that Marrak later identifies as a flock of dreams. These dreams would previously fly between dimensions as their dreamers slept but since magic dried up, they’ve been trapped in this dimension trying to find new dreamers since they can’t return to the original hosts. It was a really interesting idea that initially seemed pretty frightening but turned out to be a fascinating magical theory behind the origin of dreams and how they work. I like that Parker isn’t just tossing out all the usual stack of magical species we’ve seen in the main Buffy titles or show, he’s thoughtfully building up the mythos with really neat details.

However implausible it may seem, shortly after their encounter with the dream flock, Willow and Marrak bump into one of Willow’s old friends. Let’s just say they’re happy to see them. Things seem to be looking up for a bit but of course, nothing is ever easy in the BtVS universe and there’s a disheartening twist at the end.

Jeff Parker has written another really fun issue, with more than a few laugh-out-loud moments. He balances the humour of the original BtVS series with that same tension that anything could happen at any moment that also made the TV show work so well. It’s a great second chapter for Willow, adding new twists, turns and characters while staying true to the original. Consider me hooked.